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Texas' top 'Jeopardy!' contestant reflects on heartwarming relationship with Alex Trebek

Seth Wilson, 35, was a professor at Stephen F. Austin State University when he won 12 consecutive games on 'Jeopardy!' and is now in the show's hall of fame.

DALLAS, Texas — So often, television and film giants seem immortal, especially when they are a consistent source of joy. 

Alex Trebek, 80, died Sunday after a long fight with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, a fight he battled while simultaneously hosting the beloved game show. 

Trebek filmed several weeks of new episodes before his death. His last show will air on Christmas Day.

The authoritative, yet gracious, 'Jeopardy!' host was invited into the households of so many around the world almost every evening for 36 years.

He's immortalized in pop-culture.

For those who knew him, Trebek's death is harder to accept. 

One of those people is former Stephen F. Austin State University Adjunct Professor Seth Wilson, who started watching 'Jeopardy!' at age 5. 

In 2016, the Tennessee native was a contestant on the show while living in Nacogdoches. 

Wilson said Trebek was serious about hosting but was "also very lively and funny." 

"He was always very personable and gracious," Wilson said. "I was always struck by how warm and genuine he was. 

Wilson won 12 consecutive games in 2016, making him the best contestant the Lone Star State has sent to the show. 

His winnings amounted to $265,002 and he's now in the show's hall of fame. 

Wilson currently lives in Chicago. 

Many who watch the show know, contestants who go on a streak tend to develop a special relationship with Trebek. 

That playful smile and feeling of "who's going to beat this guy?" is felt anytime Trebek winds up at a winning contestant's podium more than once. 

At least, it sure felt like that when Ken Jennings won 74 games straight. 

"I got to spend a lot more time with him than your average 'Jeopardy!' contestant and even your average champion," Wilson said. 

"He would sing songs to himself as he was moving around the set, and it was surprising to me how approachable he was when I met him in person," Wilson said. "I mean, he is the quizmaster."

Wilson and Trebek smile for a photo after a game.

RELATED: What it was like behind-the-scenes of Alex Trebek's final 'Jeopardy!' tapings

Tributes on social media echoed that sentiment on Sunday. 

Many applauded Trebek for being humble and compassionate during his tenure with the show. 

"He was very much a regular person," Wilson said. "He's also a handyman too and I thought that was so unexpected that he was passionate about home improvement projects." 

Before Trebek announced that he was fighting cancer, Wilson returned to the show in 2019 for an all-star tournament. 

After the taping, there was a wrap party where Trebek gave an emotional toast to crew members and some of the show's best contestants. 

At the time, no one knew that Trebek may have been sick. 

"He got a little choked up at one point," Wilson said. "It really is a great last memory to have of him. He was genuinely expressing his love for the show and what it had meant to his life." 

"I didn't know it was going to be the last time I saw him in person." 

One of Wilson's favorite moments with Trebek happened right before one of his games began. 

"He said if he was on a trivia team that he would want to be on a team with me because I seem to know a lot about different things," Wilson said. "That was flattering because Alex spends a lot of time of his professional life with really smart people." 

The show will move on, but it will be difficult to see it progress without the man who carried it for almost four decades.

Wilson shares the same sentiment that I once had for Mr. Williams. 

"It's very surprising that someone so firmly established in our culture isn't with us anymore," Wilson said. 

"It's going to take some time to adjust." 

Alex Trebek and Texas' winningest 'Jeopardy!' contestant Seth Wilson pose for a photo on the show's set.